Treatment of leg ulcers
by Dr Sherri Kirkpatrick.
Children in many Third World countries suffer from painful leg ulcers. One group of school-age children in Chiba, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, decided to take action and asked for help. Some of the children had legs covered with scars from previous ulcers – sometimes their legs were either deformed or crippled from the effects. All suffered pain from current weeping leg ulcers. The children knew that the Community Health Workers (CHWs) ran regular clinics for babies and asked if they could consider running regular clinics to treat their ulcers.
With a combination of traditional and Western medicine, the CHWs in Chiba have now successfully treated over 1,000 cases of tropical leg ulcers. These ulcers are the result of poor nutrition and poor personal hygiene. Improving nutrition is very important, but significant success has also been achieved by improving sanitation. A major goal was to provide a low cost project which was sustainable because local resources could be used.
The treatment they used is described opposite. Step-by-step pictures of the treatment were posted in central areas of the villages to remind people of the treatment and to raise awareness. They were laminated to make them last longer. Explanations were provided in the local language.
A dramatic improvement was noted in many of the ulcers after just one week. When records were reviewed after the first six months, the CHWs noted that out of 600 children with leg ulcers, all but a handful (6–8) had been treated successfully. They believed that the unsuccessful cases would also have healed if the treatment had been correctly followed.
As news of the successful treatment spread throughout the region, the health workers expanded their role from that of local care-givers to that of consultants for the development of similar projects in surrounding areas. As a result, they have become much more self-confident and aware of their own abilities. They are now providing leadership in other community efforts.
Dr Kirkpatrick has worked for many years providing training for health workers in Africa and the Caribbean. Her address is: Graceland College, 1401 West Truman Road, Independence, MO 64050, USA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org